Monday, November 29, 2010

So far…..

Sue and the older children's Sunday School class
Our internet access, or lack thereof, has caused a bit of frustration on both our parts, but we are getting used to it and find access at unanticipated times.  J NEW IDEA…(we’re making it up as we go.) I (Steph) thought that since we saw most of the same things, but through different eyes, we would interject in each other’s entries. Ergo, this italic entry is mine, and where you see italic text, it will be from the humble co-writer.  ENJOY

The Current Methodist Church

Images of Gaugin...

The visiting Deacon presented the sermon
 At the moment, Sunday, November 28, 2010, we are anchored off The Current Settlement on the island of Eleuthera. We decided to go ashore and see if we could find a church, as the Explorer Guide said there was a Methodist Church here.   We found it on the other side of the island, a ½ mile walk, on quiet country roads lined with tropical foliage, and what a joy!  We walked up the steps to the church (a neat and simple whitewashed buttressed masonry building,) and a lovely woman named Sue Martin came out.  We introduced ourselves and said that we were visiting and she graciously invited us to attend Sunday school if we wanted, and then the service which began at 11 am.  Sue is the teacher for the older children’s Sunday school (which we attended) and she is also very active in other areas of the church's operation.  We were warmly welcomed by many people and we thoroughly enjoyed the service. The service was mostly hymn singing, and everyone joined in with gusto.  Hymns were sung entire; there was no picking and choosing a verse or two for brevity.    Sue is also the local librarian and told us that they have free internet at the library, so that is where we will post this to the blog on Monday.  It was lovely to be in such a friendly environment.  This was really our first time of meeting Bahamians in a village setting not related to the marine or tourist industries. 
The Current is a settlement that is on the part of the island south of Spanish Wells.(about which more later, after this introductory digression.)  It is a lovely, clean village and the homes are very nice, painted in a variety of bright colors.  It has two churches, a General Store, a library, a Community Center and a post office.  It also has a lovely park with a playground for children.  The settlement made a superb recovery after being inundated with a wall of water and 200+ mph winds during Hurricane Andrew. .   This old community is cited as one of the Bahamas' most appealing, with brightly painted and colorfully planted cottages.   While there are many vacation homes of outsiders, unlike some of the other spots we’ve visited, it is primarily inhabited by natives who trace their heritage back to England.
Let’s see….When last I finished writing, we had arrived in Marsh Harbour and had gone to bed after our second offshore adventure.  (November 12th)Crew member Tim left to go home to SC  L and Dave was able to stay on until the following TuesdayJ.  We were looking forward to a visit with his honey Lisa Marie, but because of flights, that did not happen.
We did do a bit of exploring.  In a search for the local bakery, we went for a rather long walk through Marsh Harbor, and saw the numerous hardware stores, cell phone stores, gas stations and little shops.  We stopped at the Tourist Bureau and met a wonderful lady named Melinda.  She gave us lots of information about the Abacos and told us that there was free Wi-Fi there during working hours if we wanted to bring the laptop.  (That didn’t happen because it was a long journey to get there.) We learned about the ferries that were available to get to the other islands and where to find certain things that we needed.  A visit to the BaTelCo let us know that my phone would not work there, for some reason, which we already knew, and that we could buy a phone card and/or a Bahamian pay as-you-go cell phone for use here and in the USA.  Had to think about that.  We walked all over, trying to follow the artistic version of a map of the town.  It was a bit misleading in terms of distances.  It had been raining off and on, and, not being used to the traffic driving on the other side of the road, we got drenched when a young man went by in a car and hit a pot hole full of dirty water.  What a shock!  He was also shocked and had a very contrite expression on his face.  Then we were walking to find the grocery store (Maxwell’s) and Steph slipped into a hole full of dirty water and fell down.  (the wet limestone soil is very slippery.) He hopped right up and was only slightly bloodied.  As we entered the parking lot of Maxwell’s, several blocks away, a woman drove up and asked if he was okay, as she had seen him fall.  He assured her that he was fine.  Maxwell’s is like being in Shop Rite, or Wegman’s or any other large supermarket in the USA.  We did some shopping and stocked up on the Oreo’s, canned meats, milk, eggs, etc.  Aside from Marsh Harbor’s single functioning traffic light, Maxwell’s is the current place to see, as it just reopened after a devastating fire.  It is bigger and better than the old store, and is the largest employer in town.
Back at the Conch Inn Marina we partied on Last Tango, Patty and Gary Root’s boat.  That night there were 14 people in their cockpit!  Sandpiper, Eva Marie, Maribelle and others were represented.
Next morning, I borrowed a Verizon phone that WAS working from Sue ( a crew member from another fleet boat), and called the Global Support number.  They told me that my phone was too old and didn’t have the Quad something capability and therefore would only work in parts of the Bahamas, like Nassau.  We went back to the phone company and got a pay-as-you-go cell phone for emergency use. 

Mary enjoying the sun in Hope Town

Stars and Stripes x 2

Steph and Dave in Hope Town

Waves crashing on the Atlantic side 

See the waves breaking on the reefs

Hope Town (Elbow Cay) Light House

Dave and Judy atop the lighthouse

See the Ensign!

Inside the lighthouse -- See Judy in the center?

Partying with friends in Marsh Harbour

Laundry day has a whole new meaning .....

Maxwells supermarket in Marsh Harbour

We saw more rainbows in Marsh Harbour than I have seen in years!
We did boat projects, like figuring out that the autopilot compass had also failed, and had another get together with other Caribbean 1500 folks that night.  Since the price of a ferry ride to go to Hope Town was $20 each we figured that for less than $60 we could sail there in Bentaña, spend the night at a mooring and spend more time there.  We departed Sunday, had a lovely motor sail and entered Hope Town harbor at high tide as the entry like many in the islands is narrow and shallow.  We deployed the dingy,* motored in to one of the many dingy docks and walked around a pretty town with many lovely cottages painted in bright colors.  Visitors and guidebooks compare it to Nantucket.  Like most of these long skinny outer barrier islands there is a quite side and an ocean side, (think Fire Island.) Trees and plants were labeled and there were many nice shops, which were closed because it was Sunday.  We decided to stop by the Hope Town Harbour Lodge for some beach side liquid refreshments.  Steph and Dave had Goombay Smashes and I stuck with a normal Rum and Coke, since I did not want to get smashed!
*Deploying the dingy, like many boat projects is more complicated than it sounds. The dingy, a RIB, or hard bottomed Rigid Inflatable Boat had been deflated, zipped inside a nylon canvas cover and secured on deck since leaving Hampton. It had to be unfastened, pumped up with a foot pump, and hoisted overboard with the main halyard.  The 2-stroke Yamaha 8HP outboard likewise had to be unfastened from its pushpit location and hoisted on the mizzen halyard and lowered onto the transom of the dink. The evolution took about an hour.  Within the Bahamas, the dingy will either trail behind on a bridle and tow rope, or be hoisted up on davits for longer or rougher passages.  In the latter case, the motor will be restored to its pushpit location.
As we were sitting there, we watched the Atlantic waves crashing into and exploding on the shore. The ocean had been in a “RAGE” since Thursday afternoon and had the biggest waves and roughest water in 20 years.  No one was coming into or going out of the Abacos by boat. We also saw a military like helicopter fly by and head south.  When we got back to the boat, we signed up for a week’s worth of internet services (which were intermittent at best).  Steph went onto the Carib1500 site to see how the boats going to Tortola were doing and he read that one boat, Rule 62, had diverted to the Bahamas, tried to enter one of the passes near where we were and hit a reef and one crew member was missing.  It was a terrible shock for us.  When you travel in a group like that, you become a family and even though we did not know the people involved, we felt a tremendous sense of loss.
On Monday, 11/15, we visited the very picturesque Hope Town Light house and climbed to the top.  WHAT A VIEW!  For all you Ensigneers out there, the marina at the light house had an Ensign in the storage area. The light at Elbow Cay, as the light is properly called, is a red and white striped affair with 101 steps spiraling up to one of the last hand cranked, kerosene lit marine aids in the western hemisphere.  Its five highly polished Fresnel bulls’-eyes deliver five bright flashes followed by a less bright interval, to identify it to vessels at sea in the dark.  It is visible seventeen miles away, and even further from the deck of a large ship. After a chat with the folks at the Light House/Marina gift shop about the lost boat, we headed back to our boat and dropped the mooring to head back to anchor at Marsh Harbor as Dave had to be at the airport about 11 am on Tuesday. 
Tuesday morning we dingyed in to the Conch Inn Marina where Dave was sure to find a taxi to the airport.  After dropping him off and getting sort of directions from a taxi driver, we hopped in the dingy again and went to Union Jack Dock (one of several public dingy landings), unloaded our shore cart and I went to the Laundromat to do lots of laundry while Steph did some more food shopping.  We then motored out to Bentaña for a return to life in an empty nest.  We all know how much we like company, and in this case, Dave and Tim were invaluable in bringing us this far.  As crew, they were more intimate and more valuable than family, but it’s always good to get your space back.   This meant moving all the stuff in the converted dinette into the vee-berth, Tim’s space.  The platform made of the dining table and a couple of 2X4’s became a real eating place again, once the center post was restored, and the cushions and 2X4’s taken up.  Since we have more stuff than places to stow it, we run in to blivits regularly and keep moving things from one place to another.  For those of you who know boats, you totally understand the having to move two things to get to anything you want on the boat!

In the Abacos, each morning at 0815 is the “Cruisers’ Net” on VHF radio.  It is very entertaining and a wealth of information.  They always give the weather forecast, the conditions of the cuts (through the reefs) to enter the Sea of Abaco from the Atlantic or vice versa and lots of invitations from the local businesses as well as community activities.  They also have an emergency email program where cruisers can be reached and given emergency email via the net and all new cruisers are welcomed and those departing say good bye.  It is also a place to get contacts to help you resolve problems or answer questions about other cruising destinations.
Photos and more updates will follow when we get to Nassau later in the week.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Judy’s more mundane version of “Across the Stream” 11-19-10

We departed Wilmington about 0100 on Monday, November 8, 2010 and motored through Snow’s Cut to the Cape Fear River.  Carol and Harry saw our lights and followed us with the telescope until we were out of sight.  The tide was favorable and we traversed the 20 miles to Southport with the Iron Jib (Motor) without incident.  At 0420 we were in the ocean. We set the main sail and continued to make way with the engine.  It was chilly, well, downright COLD; I was wearing my snowmobile suit and everyone else was layered up with about all the clothes they had on board…  The winds were out of the NNE and were brisk.  We again had waves and swells, but not as heavy as before, thank goodness!  We were hand steering, as before, because we had been unable to swing the compass for the autopilot….

 The sun rose soon after and it was glorious to behold.  It would be three days before we arrived in the Bahamas.  The shear grandeur of nature was/is amazing….the water color, the sea creatures, visits by dolphins and birds, the sense of space and unlimited visibility, the color of the sky, the millions of stars, the cloud shapes, the waves..…

The BLUE, BLUE ocean


    At 0630 we deployed the genoa and shut off the engine…Peace and Quiet!  The water temperature was 67.1 degrees.  Each hour we noted our lat and long (Latitude and Longitude) that were indicated on the GPS, checked the water temp and noted the wind speed.  All day the wind was in the 14 to 22 knot range.  Slowly the water temperature was rising, indicating that we were approaching the gulfstream. At 1015 the water temp was 90.7 degrees and the air was warm.  We had hit the Gulf Steam!!!  We sailed through the Gulf Stream all night and were out at dawn.  The sea was royal blue and transparent.The sunrises and sunsets, again, were spectacular.Shorts were the clothing of the day for the guys, and I took off a few layers of clothes.  J 
The winds were light (well ,down to between 9 and 15 knots—it’s all relative) off our port quarter and the genoa was luffing, so we decided to set the whisker pole (3 inches in diameter and extended to 20 feet to hold the sail out.  All was fine and we were making way when all of a sudden, CRACKKKKKK ! WHAMMMM!, the pole shuddered, departed the mast and began flailing around the deck and threatening to pierce the dodger and break the transom of the dingy which was stored on deck for our ocean passage..  Steph was below and Dave was at the wheel, so it was up to Tim and me, the smallest human crew members, to wrestle the pole down and do it without killing ourselves or inflicting more damage on the boat.  Luckily we were both tethered onto the boat, because the pole was bucking like an enraged bronco and it felt like it was trying to throw us overboard.  The ring on the mast track had parted.  Tim and I survived with only minor bruises and we finally got the pole situated on deck.
Every morning at 0800 and every evening at 1900 (7 pm) we had a single sideband (SSB) call with the rest of the Bahamas fleet.  It was interesting to hear where everyone was, what they had for dinner, what sea life they had experienced, what fish had been caught and just to hear other voices and know that we were not alone on the earth…. ;) We were rapidly converging with the other boats that had left Charleston, SC the morning we left Wilmington, NC.  We had 40 miles further to go, and were fast enough that we converged with the rest of the fleet for our entrance to the Bahamas.
During out second night out, Dave and Steph were in the cockpit and I heard them calling another boat on the VHF radio.  The other boat was not responding and we were on a collision course.  They were watching carefully and when we got close enough, they blew the airhorn to get the other skipper’s attention.  The other boat changed course slightly and a few moments later came on the radio and asked who we were and where we were going.  The other vessel  coming from the west was a French catamaran on its way to the Caribbean.  The skipper had been napping.  I’m glad that WE were paying attention as we passed within 100 feet of each other.
Day three brought us very little wind, so we motored all day and through the night.  There were swells, some of them quite large.  All of a sudden it was like we were on top of a high mountain and could see all around. We had a visual encountered with “Sandpiper”, another vessel from our fleet, and took some long distance pictures of them sailing in the sunset.  The plan was to meet the rest of the fleet on 11/11/10 at 0600 outside Loggerhead Channel to enter the Sea of Abaco together in the daylight and to be in port well before the impending very heavy wind and seas that were forecasted to follow.

Bentaña dressed for the parade
We entered the Sea of Abaco in a little parade of 5 or 6 boats and followed Mahalo, our “mother-ship”, to the Conch Inn and Marina, which is also a Moorings and Sunsail charter base.  We all made it into the slips, tidied up and all  
Sea of Abaco
the captain’s went ashore with all the paperwork to go through immigration and customs.

The Perservering Crew l to r: Steph, Judy,  Dave and Tim

It was nice walking around the docks and seeing other ship’s crews and comparing how tired we all were..At 1600 (4 pm) there was a gathering at the Inn’s bar “Curlytails”(named for the little lizards with curly tails that abound), and everyone had a drink or two.  We were awarded our “Perseverance in the Face of Adversity (or something like that)” Award and had another drink.  Many of us went to dinner at Snappa’s and had Cracked Conch, which was truly a culinary treat.  Our crew headed back to the boat and commented on how late it must be, since we were soooooo tired.  We all howled with laughter when we found the time was only 7:30 pm!!  We were all in bed and asleep by 8 pm.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


     Due to the tragic loss of one of the vessels and a crew member in the caribbean1500 it is difficult to continue our narrative without interweaving the tales and outcomes.  It is part of the drama which separates our current endeavor from the day to day life, snug at home.  I will try to pick up our trip from Cape Fear to the sunny shores of Abaco filling in some of the events and factors which enrich and explain the experience.  I dedicate this to Laura Zekoll, a sailor from Atlanta, lost and presumed drowned and to the crew of “Rule 62” who survived.
     There are two flotillas in the Caribbean 1500.  The first and oldest is the 1500 mile passage from Hampton Virginia to Tortola, BVI (British Virgin Islands.)  Started by Steve Black, a solo ocean voyager 21 years ago, thousands of Sailors have safely crossed the gulfstream in company of others.  This year there were seventy sailboats in this group.  With a November first departure date, most have just arrived there, or are arriving as I type. Steve is retiring this year, and passing the baton.
     The second flotilla is the Bahamas 800 which includes Bentaña, our “ship” with crew of four and sailing cat Mary.  We were nine boats and the event is only a few years old.  We chose the Bahamas group for several reasons.  Bentaña has made the trip about twenty times with former owners Tom and Sandy Stefanic, and ship’s cat Sailin’ Waylon.    We have already sailed in the BVI, and wanted to chart some new territory. Thirdly, our insurer, BOAT/US   does not cover south of the Bahamas.
     Probably the best reason is that over the years our journey towards this trip has been incremental.  Starting with an Ensign, 23’ day sailor, learning sailboat handling and gaining skills over five or six years,  and chartering and cruising with our good friends Jon and Carol Marsh.  We moved up to a Tartan 30 and made trips in the company of other boats, and eventually solo.  Now we have made this trip with others and have some idea of what to expect.  We sent Dave Otterbein home yesterday, and now it’s up to Judy and me to sail the Bahamas on our own.  Longer passages and terra incognita loom in the future.
     Each of the flotillas is further divided into cruisers and ralleyers, with the ralleyers classed by size.  Ralleyers met up off shore from Hampton Roads for a timed PHRF handicapped run to Charleston SC.    The “Plan,” (always subject to change) was to sail directly out and through the Gulf Stream in the first day directly to the Bahamas.  Because November One marks the first day after official hurricane season, insurance restrictions are lifted and the rally begins, weather permitting.  This year, remnants of “Thomas” nixed the off-shore venture, but allowed a weather window for the Bahamas group to make tracks south to Charlestown and await another window.  This would put the group half-way to Marsh Harbor and possibly avoid any delay.  The 1500 group would have to sit tight, as their track was further east and would be impacted by poor weather.  The prudent sailor requires pretty good conditions before setting out to the open ocean.  The 1500 group sat for a week in Hampton chomping at the bit.  For the owners and crew, many of whom have day jobs, the charm and novelty of Hampton wears thin.  Several boats have decided to head out on their own.
     Steve Black and his wonderful crew of volunteer inspectors, trainers and hosts bend over backwards to make this a safe and enjoyable adventure.  After a rigorous inspection of each boat, rig, equipment and crew, we are reminded that the choice to go off-shore ultimately lies with us.  The dangers inherent in this venture are neither overblown nor minimized.
     …And so 0900 11-01-10 the ralleyers meet on open waters west of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge / Tunnel.  Bernie, our group leader, on Mahalo said “OK we’re all here, we’ve started.”  So with Bentaña at the back of the pack, we’re off.  Our PHRF handicap gives us an 18 hour advantage over the fastest boat in the trip to Charleston, but in the first few hours we pass two boats.  For the rest of the day the boats seemed to be in lock step, with the boat in front of us never getting closer or further away.  With the winds from the NW we were reaching into the night in good wind and fair seas.  Now we were following a double stern light, both the tri-color and deck nav light being turned on on the boat before us, easy to follow, but against regulations.
     Overnight the winds grew and the sea swells as well.  We continued to gain on the fleet as the hours wore on.  The seas became confused, with cross swells pushing our bow one way and stern another.  We began Racing down waves and veering east and west.  Our new auto-pilot groaned as she tried to keep us on course in tormenting seas.  Finally she failed, and gave up the wheel to the watch.  I looked into the engine room and saw the chain and gears lying on the deck.  Holding oneself steady was a chore, but trying to do a task was near impossible.  We were in it, and the way out of it was to hand steer till conditions improved. 
    Conditions would not improve for a couple of days, in fact were forecast to get worse.  The four of us, in two watches sailed around the clock, three hours on and three hours off, day and night.  While many of the boats reported on our twice daily radio net rendezvous that they were motoring, we had come to sail, and sail we did.  We continued to pass boats, and had we not decided to duck into Wilmington NC, I’m sure we would have scored first, 
     The decision to go to Wilmington was based on our utter exhaustion, and no respite in sight.  The three hours on watch was a grind, physically and mentally.  Seasickness was not an issue, but the constant erratic motion of the ship, wracking and pitching without letup made sleeping near impossible and staying awake as hard.  Of the three hours between watches, it took half an hour getting in and out of foul weather gear.  It was cold and wet in the dark blue waters of the Labrador Current influence. Once lying horizontal (relatively,) the groan of the woodwork writhing in the torsion of the seaway, and the feel of your guts sloshing around in your abdomen, rolling from side to side in your bunk …oh well you get the picture.  Managing the wheel was tough as the wind had clocked behind us.  With our sails reefed and preventer on, the boat when steering down wind was on the constant edge of jibing. Too little to the left and the sail would back with a bang, only the robust preventer keeping it from swinging across and breaking the gooseneck.  A little too much to the right and the apparent wind would pick the boat up and turn it east to the shoals.  Bringing it back from one of these lifters was an act of brute force, wrestling 11 tons of fiberglass back on track, only to swing one way or the other on the next wave.  The seas were running 15 foot swells and winds at 20-30 kts with gusts to 40.  The constant backing and filling also cost us a batten, as the pocket snagged on the lower aft main shroud and ripped the pocket open.  If this wasn’t enough, continuing to Charleston would mean at least one  more day of this, and potentially ever building seas.
     Furthermore Dave Otterbein’s folks live at Shipwatch on the River and are mariners through and through.  Harry, Dave’s dad, was following our track on the web site ( and saw us come around Frying Pan Shoals and heading up the Cape Fear River and called out, “Carol, I think we’re going to have company.”  It took half the night rounding the Frying Pan Shoals Light,(not found) and up the Cape Fear River, the entry to Wilmington, a major commercial seaport.  The river is wide but shoaly and the chart plotter and Nav aids vital. At daylight, cell access restored, Harry had found us a slip and a sail maker.  Bone weary rest ensued.
     I assure you we could not have had a better R& R &R.  , but that is a story for another day.  We were in contact with the fleet in Charleston, and we were all awaiting another weather window several days off.  Meanwhile the race was over without us, and they were spending all our banquet money without us.  The auto-pilot had failed by the backing out of a twenty five cent set screw.  No damage to any parts.  The sailmaker, Lars from Blue Water Canvas Works was able to turn the work around overnight, and our main has all four new velcroed Batten Pockets. Dave bemoaned the lack of leecloths on the settee, so we found a fabric shop with sunbrella and he built a pair for the boat.  The port deck level nav light had also failed and let water into the chain locker and vee-berth so Harry rebuilt that.
     As delightful as our time ashore, we were anxious to get going.  We had given Tim shore leave on the proviso that he rejoins the ship before departure.  I wasn’t sure if the first leg was the kind of adventure he had signed on for.  He lives in Charleston and we thought we might go down the ICW (Inter Coastal Waterway) and all get together there.     Dave who is the most experienced sailor on board suggested we could meet the fleet on the other side of the Gulf Stream and enter the Bahamas together.  Bernie had the same idea and also told us we had earned a trophy for perseverance in extraordinary circumstances (not to mention that we passed him close by on the water and would have beaten all the monohulls to the finish. IMHO.)
     And so it was, all delays aside, we rowed out to Bentaña, anchored on Otter Creek in Carol and Dave’s Walker Bay dink.  We brought the ship to a vacant slip next to Carol Ann, the Otterbein’s Motor cruiser.  Tim rejoined us and we took some shut-eye, awaiting the midnight tide and another round of watch on watch.
     It is the nature of water, a fluid which covers most of the globe to be in motion in relation to the sun, the moon, the rotation of the earth, the spinning of the aqueous gyres and the ever fluctuating wind.  The size and direction of sea swells is a factor of the force and duration of the wind.  The longer the fetch and longer the duration, the higher water will mound up.  When we left Cape Fear the seas had settled, and a moderate breeze was fine as we approached the Gulf Stream.  Here further south, the stream is more constricted than at Hampton, and subsequently travels northerly off shore at a higher speed.  The best plan of attack is to enter after a low pressure event, which should give several days of quiet seas,.  Once in the stream, sail or motor perpendicular to the stream as to reach the other side in the shortest time.  While going across the stream, the vessel is being carried north, giving the inclination to head south for our Waypoint in the islands.  This tack will only prolong the time spent in the stream with the dangers this may produce.  With the winds behind us again, and the auto pilot still not functioning we crossed the stream by next day.  We doffed our foulies and hauled on the shorts.  The air temperature was up, the water temperature which we gauged hourly was at 90 degrees.  The seas were a new color, translucent blue-green with sarragasso weed floating on the waves.
      In a couple of more days we would rendezvous with the rest of the fleet and enter the Bahamas as a group.  Since leaving Hampton, the fleet has morphed.  Some boats have hitched along with us, and some faster cats have headed south on their own.  Boats which sustained damage or unbearable conditions in the first leg turned back or down the coast.  Unknown to our fleet, Rule 62 had left the BVI fleet and was headed for the Bahamas.
      A little geography is in order here.  The BVIs, like most of the Caribbean, is volcanic, as or as my friend Captain Curt Koster the engineer is fond of saying, “It’s binary.” Islands rise from the sea like mountains with deep water close at hand.   This is not the case for the Bahamas.  The four hundred or so islands and cays stretch for miles across a shallow limestone bank.  In a way that is its charm.  You sail in waters no more than 15 feet deep, and see the bottom as you go.  The islands have little rise to them, but provide a barrier to the great ocean swells that can and unfortunately did arise this week.  Entry to the islands is restricted as at an atoll, to certain passages and only in certain conditions.  As Bernie advised us approaching the rendezvous, “If your depth gauge says 300 feet, you are too close.”  The Bahamas banks rise abruptly from a thousand feet of water to a dozen or more.  If you have contended with The Race, or Hell’s Gate, you can imagine the consequences.  The charts recommends as did Bernie, enter at daylight , to make your way in when the suns angle is good for reading the water.  GPS and Charts must be used in conjunction with a bow watch, depth sounder and hands on the wheel. Shoaling waters, sand bars and unreliable bouyage are part of the challenge.  The morning we entered, conditions on the ocean were deteriorating.  Besides staying off-shore till daybreak, in the conditions that where to come, it would have been advisable to remain off-shore till things settled down.  Plain and simple, sometimes you cannot enter. 
      It seems from the transponder record on the web site, Rule 62   was on track for an entrance at eight PM Saturday.  The transponder which only reports every four hours, next showed them off course and on a reef at midnight.  The three survivors reported that after going aground on the reef, they deployed the life raft and all four of crew got in the raft with life jackets on.  Apparently the raft overturned, all four fell out, they were separated and three were washed ashore.
     Lynyard Cay, like many of these Cays is an off shore Barrier, similar to Fire island, that is with a quiet side and an ocean side. The loss was unknown to us when we anchored at Hope Town, on the protected side.  We climbed the short bluff to see the ocean side.  Locals told us that the condition they call a “rage” was worse than people could remember.  We took pictures of the surf crashing on the reef and enjoyed rum drinks as the sun set.  We saw a helicopter pass.  
     Clearly some bad decisions were made on board Rule 62, but I wasn’t there.  I too have been tossed around as if inside a washing machine for hours on end.  A desperate attempt for shore against unknown days being bashed about at sea.  What would you do?
Steph 11-17-10

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Rally!!!!

Well, here we are again.  The Bahamas Bound Rally started on time (actually 3 hours early) on November 1.  It was really exciting.  The wind was really honking out on the Chesapeake, so the Rally started at 9 am from wherever we happened to be…no starting line to cross.  We were quite a bit northwest of the other boats, so all 8 boats were ahead of us.  It was really exciting to catch up to them and pass several of the monohulls.  You can follow the Rally progress on this link .  We are in Bahamas Class 8, vessel Bentana.
We have seen lots of amazing things out on the sea….Monday night, the stars were amazing and we watched Orion in his voyage across the sky, we watched other boats in the vicinity and during the day we had two different pods of dolphins cavorting on our bow wave and giving us a real show.  One of these days we will get the videos on Youtube.
We had lots of discussions with our crew Tim Harris and Dave Otterbein about watch schedules for night time sailing. We decided that two people three hours on and three hours off was going to work best.  The winds and seas became heavier than expected.  At 9 pm Monday night, our autopilot (self steering) decided to conk out, so for the next 40 hours we steered by hand.   The winds were 20-30 knots, gusting heavier, and the waves were 5-12 feet high.  The wind was behind us a lot of the time, and it was very exciting to be surfing down the waves.  It was a little disconcerting at night however, when you couldn’t see them coming.  It was pretty much impossible to sleep for more than a minute or so at a time because of the wave action, so by 1 am Wednesday, with a ripped batten pocket on the main sail, a non functioning autopilot and a few other damaged boat parts, we decided to go in to Southport, on the Cape Fear River, for some R and R and Repairs. 
Through all of this weather, our brave little Sailing Cat Mary has learned to navigate her ramp to the bed both up and down and she seems interested in what is going on.  At one point, when we were really rockin’ and rollin’ I picked her up and we snuggled together in a somewhat sheltered spot and she purred up a storm.  J
It just so happens that Dave’s parents live in Wilmington, NC, about 20 miles from Southport, and they made all the arrangements for our docking and repairs!  We have spent the last few days with them in their lovely home on the Cape Fear River, going daily to the boat to prepare for the rest of the voyage.  Carol and Harry, thank you for your help and hospitality.  It is the voyage, not the destination and every new person and place adds to the journey.  We are blessed to have met you!
We expect to leave Sunday night (tonight) on the favorable tide, and will meet the rest of the Bahamas Ralliers on the other side of the Gulfstream.
Judy-- Nov 7, 2010

A million little things~the devil’s in the details~for the want of a nail…


                The story goes that for the loss of a nail, the horse threw a shoe and consequently the rider which resulted in the loss of the battle and the end of the kingdom.  After sailing on starboard for most of our trip south, or with the genoa only part way out, we hadn’t seen the port-side of the foresail’s clew.  When we rolled her out to starboard, we discovered chafe in the clew reinforcement caused by a pulpit screw that had backed out.  Undiscovered, this could have created serious problems off-shore.  Fortunately this sailing town had a nearby sail loft, and the sailmaker was able to make the repairs promptly.  We also decided to upgrade the jiffy reef system to two lines instead of the single line the boat was rigged with.  This required another trip to West Marine for hardware, line and fasteners.  I also went to a Bass Pro megastore for a fishing catching rig.  The image was, Disney does LL Bean / Orvis .

Who’d a thunk I’d be at the Laundromat in Hampton with Randy????

Judy here on November 2, 2010.  Well, we have met so many nice folks on our trip and we have been so busy that it has been pretty much impossible to keep up with our blogging.  We arrived in Hampton, VA on Friday evening, October 22.  We anchored between Hampton University and Bluewater Yachting Center, where the Rally is based.  We spent time working on last minute safety projects to prepare for the Rally.  We checked in with Steve Black, the head of Cruising Rally Association, and he gave us some local info and said we could have our mail sent to his address. Thanks, Steve!!
When we were at the boat show in Annapolis, we were given a free night coupon for the Hampton Municipal Pier.  Since our anniversary was Sunday, October 24, we decided to treat ourselves to the night at the dock.  We met Kate, the WONNDERFUL dockmaster and Dick and Elle, and Jane and Glenn.  We shared a cab to West Marine with Dick and Elle and they were very helpful in giving us info on and how to put a link to the Spot track on this blog.  When we have time, we will do it! Then you will be able to see where we are.  Thanks, guys, it was great to meet you! That evening when we went out to dinner at Marker 20, there were Jane and Glenn who shared their table with us.  What a lovely evening.....
On Monday morning, we were doing more boat projects and we had a visitor.  Trudy is a volunteer welcome from the CRA.  She came to the boat and asked if we needed anything, offered to give us a drive around town to orient us, take us to the grocery store or hardware store, etc.  We asked this lovely angel if there was a community/church kitchen where we could prepare some meals for the voyage, and she offered us her kitchen!
On Wednesday when we were cooking at Trudy’s, my cell phone rang and it was Randy Mirque from NBC.  He was in Hampton and decided to look us up.  He came over to Trudy’s and we had a great time chatting and catching up, and then Randy spent the night on Bentaña with us. We attended the evening parties and cooked dinner on the boat.  The next day, we all had laundry to do and Randy had a car, so he and I went to the Laundromat and did laundry.  What a wonderful, unexpected visit.  Thanks, Randy!


                Each day in Hampton included seminars.  Weather, Gulf Stream analysis, Health, medicine and safety at sea, provisioning, island basics, fishing catching fish, diesel review, SSB radio communication and daily radionet at sea, etc.  So each day we had time to catch up on daily life chores, special boat chores, and a bit of socializing under the classroom/tent at Bluewater .  Monday evening, Pete, one of the veteran, volunteer inspectors came aboard and asked to schedule an inspection.  He was expecting twenty boats a day to arrive in the next few days.  We said, “We’re not 100%, but how about checking off what’s done now, and we’ll let you know when we’re all finished.” So we postponed dinner, his and ours, and went over our check list.  Type I life vests with lights and whistles; safe and sound life-lines and rigging; fire extinguishers; life raft; ditch bag with first aid kit EPIRB, VHF, GPS, fishing kit, signal flares, smoke and parachute signals; single side band radio, redundant compass’, GPS, bilge pumps, meds, food, water, etc; jack-lines, tethers and personal harnesses; cabinet latches, Hatch board tie-downs, sturdy buckets with lanyards, MOB pole with light, horseshoe, drogue and whistle; food,  fuel and water; plans for the crossing;  emergency plans for fire, MOB, flooding, sinking, rig failure or dismasting and on and on.  We did well, but still had items to complete.